What Does It Take To Be Faithless?
In the Gospel Reading, Jesus tells two parables, one about servants and one about stewards. In the parable about the servants, he mentions a reward for the good ones. In the parable about the stewards, he adds a punishment for the bad ones. The bad steward will be assigned a place with the unfaithful.
The unfaithful are those who don’t have what faith alone will get you: union with the Lord. So when the Lord says to some people, “Go away!” the bad steward will be in that group.
This is truly a dreadful punishment.
So what is a steward, and what does it take to be a bad one?
Well, a steward is a person who has servants under him. In the parable, those who are under the steward are the Lord’s servants. So to be a steward of the Lord’s is to have in your power other people who are servants of the Lord.
Now a person of faith serves the Lord voluntarily; but those who reject faith serve the Lord too; they just do so involuntarily. God is Lord over all people. And so every human being is the Lord’s servant.
And so it is easy for anybody to count as a steward of the Lord’s, too. Every person who has any human beings in his power is a steward of the Lord’s, just because he has some kind of charge over other human beings—and every human being is, willy-nilly—a servant of the Lord’s.
So if you are the president of a company, you are a steward of the Lord, because there are human beings who are in your power. But you don’t have to have a lot of people under you to be a steward of the Lord. If you are the mother of small children, you are a steward of the Lord’s too because these small human beings are in your charge.
It doesn’t take much, then, to meet the condition for being a steward of the Lord’s. If you sit at the dinner table with other people who can’t easily get away from you, you are a steward of the Lord as far as those people are concerned. To some small extent, they are in your power until you leave the table and them.
Two things mark out the bad steward. First, he considers his own needs and desires first and foremost. He does not care enough about the needs and desires of those who are in his power. Second, when he deals with those in his power, he treats them unjustly. A mother who watches TV instead of caring for her children or who lets the older child tyrannize the younger one is a bad steward. A president of a company who assigns raises not to reward merit but to get revenge on his political enemies in the company is a bad steward too.
So having other people in your power is a fearsome responsibility. Do it badly, and you get a place among the faithless, outside, looking in at the joy the Lord gives his faithful, who served him well.
Eleonore Stump is Professor of Philosophy, Saint Louis University
**From Saint Louis University